All in Line

The air was thick and dusty. It would make your eye water if you opened them too wide. The few men left where in their quarters. The usual sounds where not carried through the mist, no marching, no training, no singing, no sweating. That was it. The glory days where over. Tomorrow the last men would leave. All of this brought on by a small boy. He could not have been older than ten or eleven. He had wondered into the camp not more than a few days ago. Pale as ice, with ripped clothes and hair black as a night with new moon. He had slipped passed the guards at the gate, inexplicably. They first noticed him on the training pitch, just after sun down. Wondering aimlessly over the grass with a blank stare in his eyes. He didn’t even blink when officer Gerald shone his flash light into his eyes.

“What the hell are you doing here, boy?” He had exclaimed in his deep and overpowering voice.
No reaction, the boy kept on walking like he could not hear, not see, not comprehend. This was not to the liking of officer Gerald, who was used to complete compliance. He had grabbed the boy by his shoulder, quite rough and without warning. This seemed not to be to the liking of the boy. He had stopped in his pace and had turned his blank eyes towards the officer.  A scream had penetrated the air, loud and deep almost animal like. It was officer Gerald, blisters had formed on his hand where he had touched the boy. Even after he had let go, more of his skin seemed to form big pockets filled with milky fluid. By the time anyone had come to the scene the boy had vanished. He had simply walked on and had disappeared into the shadows. Salvador was the first to come to officer Geralds aid. He had been cleaning the toilets nearby with his own toothbrush after failing to keep his messy hair in check during the afternoon training session. He found his officer rolling in the grass in excruciating pain. His entire left hand covered in blisters.

Since then the boy was seen by many of the men. All of who encountered him suffered in mysterious agony. Insufferable headaches, gut ranching puking, disabling muscle cramps, not one had walked away unscathed after encountering the boy. An encounter would always happen if one of the man was alone. And before anyone else would arrive, the boy disappeared. They had set up big search parties to find this mysterious boy that roamed their camp but to no avail. He seemed only their when one of the men found himself to be alone. The sick ward had slowly been filled with the lone wanderers who refused to be scared of this little boy spreading fear over the camp. It had come to a point where half of the man had deserted their post, they would not be convinced to stay in the camp even if the punishment for desertion was a bullet through the brain. The daily routine of the camp had completely been abandoned and everybody would move around in groups of at least three. Slowly and always looking over their shoulder, heavily armed on top of that. One of the men had ended up in the sick ward with a stray bullet in his shoulder fired by a nervous junior cadet. In three days the camp had gone from a standard military base to a grim dark hole. Some of the men had locked themselves in the small chapel and had been praying none stop for 36 hours. Their god did not reply.

Everyone had their own idea of what the boy was, what he was representing or who had send him. One theory further from the truth than the next.

I will tell you the origin of this boy, this is a true story whether you believe it or not, this is the true tale of the boy with the black hair.

As you probably figured out by now, the boy was not human. It was just a representation of the image of a human by some creatures.

“Well, what kind of creatures are we talking about?” I hear you ask.

This boy existed entirely out of ants, millions of tiny ants. With ants the individual is less important than the community, a single ant will not survive. You could say the entire ant colony is the individual. This community of ants, called Deception Ants, had evolved to imitate the human form as humans had become their number one enemy over time. If anyone or anything would touch them the outer layer of ants, the Soldier Ants, which function as the protection layer would sever. The ants in the outer layer are accommodated with irritating hairs on their thorax, their bite injects a small but potent amount of poison. Consequently, any contact with this strangely formed colony of ants will result in an abrasion. If the soldier ants make their way into your system by crawling into your oral or nasal cavity, they even have the ability to crawl behind your eyeballs, the result is horrifying. Their poison can cause strong headaches if they get to your sinuses, irritation of the digestive system when ingested or horrible skin inflammation when touched. They are so small in size you can not see or feel them crawling on your skin.

You can without a doubt imagine the confusion and terror this human sized ant colony created. If you shoot it, the ant boy would keep walking like nothing happened, the bullet would pass right through. Its constitution made it possible for the Ant Boy to change it form, shape shift if you will.

After three days of desperation Corporal Johnson had gotten a flame thrower from the armoury. He would not go anywhere without the giant pack on his bag. The rest of the men had thought he had gone crazy but on the morning of the fourth day after the first attack he had encountered the Ant Boy outside behind the kitchen. Without hesitation he lit his weapon and fired a giant beam of flames to his innocent looking enemy. After Johnsons eyes had recovered from the blinding effect of the fire he was surprised to see no trace of the boy at all. A small amount of black dust had laced the ground but the boy had disappeared.

What had happened was that as soon as the flames had touched the ant colony, it had changed its shape, it went from a human form to some kind of ant heap that was short enough to escape underneath the flames and off to the side. All of this in the split second that Johnsons eyesight was blinded by the sudden brightness. Of course, a big portion of the ants had been hit, damage had been done to the colony but you will be amazed about the regenerative power of this kind of colonies. You see, in the centre of the giant ant mass, no matter what shape it is in, they keep sleeper larvae. These larvae hatch when stress is put on the colony and a big percentage of the community is lost. In just a few hours they can boost their population back to operational numbers.

The biggest part of the colony are Filler Ants, they look like ants we all know, small and black. You already know about the Soldier Ants. The most sophisticated members of the colony are the Shaper Ants. They form a layer underneath the Soldier Ants, who form the boundary layer. The Shaper Ants have the ability to change their colour. They can do this only once in their life time though. When a colony is formed they organically “choose” a shape, depending on the biggest threat to the mother colony. Every Shaper Ant follows its predecessor and the line decides the colour they will change to. This means that the flame thrower did significant damage to the ability of the colony to hold its human-like shape. After the fire attack the Ant Boy was smaller, its colour unsteady, like looking at a TV screen with static. This is because the Filler Ants are visible through the layer of Shaper Ants and the repositioning of the Shaper Ants.

There is however a way to destroy a colony of Deception Ants if you choose to. The best way, like with any dangerous creature, is to just leave it alone and wait patiently for it to move on. But every entity has an Achilles heel. For the Deception Ants it is a microfungi called Microsporium Formicidae. The fungus thrives in the ant colony feeding on the collagen of the individual ants and the capsules of the larvae. Only a few days after infection, the colony gets so weak they can not hold their preferred shape. In about two weeks, the entire colony is wiped out.

The men where not aware of this, to be honest, they where not even aware of the true nature of the mysterious boy. The camp was deserted four days after the first appearance of the Ant Boy, never to be populated again as it went down in history as a haunted place. The colony had made a comfortable home in the camp, never to be bothered again by the species they feared the most.

 

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